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Launch of Bendera Bay for activities by Friends of Marine Park – A showcase of community stewardship in conservation

13 Dec 2020

- Update by NParks on research in the Southern Islands

Donations for research and outreach programmes of the Turtle Hatchery

This morning, Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for National Development and Minister-in-Charge of Social Services Integration, Speaker of Parliament Mr Tan Chuan-Jin and Member of Parliament Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin, joined the National Parks Board (NParks) and Friends of Marine Park (FMP) community to launch activities and programmes to be carried out at Bendera Bay on St John’s Island. As Bendera Bay comprises a lagoon with a variety of habitats that provide unique opportunities for outreach and research, the FMP community has been discussing ways to activate the area through education, outreach and research activities since late 2019. With the support of NParks, the FMP community will spearhead efforts to balance the different uses of the area, which was previously inaccessible to public, and scheduling the programmes that will take place there. These programmes will be starting in early 2021, subject to COVID restrictions.

In conjunction with the launch of activities at Bendera Bay, NParks also announced updates to the Southern Islands Biodiversity Survey (SIBS) and other baseline surveys, as well as updates on the satellite tracking of turtles. One preliminary observation is that the St John’s-Sisters’ Islands cluster (comprising Kusu Island, Lazarus Island, Pulau Tekukor, Sisters’ Islands and St John’s Island) supports rich coastal habitats that contain rare and endangered species that were previously unknown to the area. This is despite each island being small, and with human activities on them. In addition, for the first time, Singapore has records of the global movements of turtles. This shows that there is still much to learn about our biodiversity around these islands, and these data will contribute to conservation management and land use planning in Singapore.

 

Bendera Bay – a new space for education, outreach, and research for the community

The 3.9-hectare Bendera Bay consists of a lagoon with a variety of mangrove, coral, seagrass, sandy shore and rocky shore habitats. “Bendera Bay” was named as such by FMP because the indigenous Malay name for St John’s Island is Pulau Sekijang Bendera. Since securing Bendera Bay in late 2019, FMP has been planning to activate the area in ways that would help meet their community purpose centered on People, Culture and Nature. With the support of NParks, the FMP community will spearhead efforts to balance the different uses of the area, which was previously inaccessible to public, and scheduling the programmes that will take place there. This will enable the community to forge closer bonds through active stewardship of the environment in our City in Nature.

FMP aims to carry out activities at Bendera Bay for the public from early 2021, subject to COVID-19 restrictions. The nature of these activities will be planned around Research, Education and Conservation, and will be conducted by members representing four domains – Research, Recreation, Heritage, and Education. At the opening of Bendera Bay, the FMP community carried out some activities as a trial for future activities to come. The participants, who are part of the larger FMP community, will be providing feedback to refine the activities before they are opened to the public.

 

Research in the Southern Islands

The FMP community, along with other volunteers, is also involved in the Southern Islands Biodiversity Survey (SIBS) – a comprehensive survey of the terrestrial and marine habitats of Singapore’s southern islands. The survey includes the islands that make up Sisters’ Islands Marine Park, well-known islands such as Sentosa and Pulau Semakau, as well as smaller and lesser-known islands such as Pulau Biola and Pulau Jong. The survey will be carried out across two years, and also incorporates data from recent baseline surveys carried out by NParks in recent years. An extensive literature review of earlier records is also being compiled. To date, through SIBS and other recent baseline surveys, the team of NParks staff, volunteers and researchers has made some preliminary findings across the St John’s-Sisters’ Islands cluster. Findings indicate that while these islands are small, ranging from approximately 2.7 hectares to 75.1 hectares, with a history of human activities, they are still able to support rich coastal habitats that contain rare and endangered species that were previously unknown to the area. This cluster is where the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park and Bendera Bay are located, and these results support the need for community led conservation and stewardship through networks such as the Friends of Marine Park community.

Moving forward, NParks will be deploying a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) for seafloor surveys within areas of biodiversity interests at depths of 20m to 50m. These surveys will add on to existing data that was collected during the Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey in 2010 to 2015 and enable NParks to acquire baseline data to aid in long-term monitoring of the seafloor environment. Data collection will be done via visual and acoustic mapping of the seabed through the use of side-scan and multi-beam sonars, together with photo and video footage. This data will inform NParks’ strategies for management and conservation.

 

Updates to Turtle Satellite Tracking

New records are also being made for sea turtles. In a pilot earlier this year, NParks attached satellite trackers to the carapaces of two nesting Hawksbill Turtles that came ashore, recording information about their movements globally. These satellite tags transmit signals to the orbiting satellites when the turtles surface for air. GPS coordinates will be generated from the signals, informing researchers about the turtle’s whereabouts. Based on the signals recorded thus far, the turtles swam along the eastern shores of Singapore before journeying to Riau in Indonesia and are currently in their feeding grounds off Batam.

This is the first time that such data is being recorded in Singapore, enabling researchers to better understand the travel patterns of nesting turtles, and contribute towards conservation management and land use planning in Singapore. NParks will install more of such trackers on nesting turtles during the next nesting season.

 

Contributions towards conservation and outreach of our marine habitats

Much of NParks’ work in biodiversity conservation is made possible with the support of the community, such as volunteers and members of the public who participate in surveys, citizen science initiatives, and report sightings of wildlife. The community has also contributed in other ways towards the conservation of and outreach on our marine habitats and biodiversity. To celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary, Mr Han Jok Kwang and Mdm Leong Wai Leng made a contribution towards the research and outreach programmes of the Turtle Hatchery in Sisters’ Islands Marine Park. Their donation was made through the Garden City Fund, NParks’ registered charity and Institution of a Public Character.

Collaboration with the community through active stewardship of the environment is an important part of our transformation into a City in Nature. A City in Nature will enable the community to forge closer bonds through active stewardship of the environment, where Singaporeans can live with and alongside nature, to create a more liveable Singapore for all.

 

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Last updated on 14 December 2020

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